Bethany veterans build a bridge

BETHANY - A bridge of memories - to honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces - will soon span the stream that flows into Hockanum Lake at Veterans Memorial Park, making it possible to walk around the 8-acre town-owned lake for the first time.

"It completes the circle, " said Eugene "Timer" Downs, quartermaster of the Bethany Volunteers of Foreign Wars Post 2448. The post is sponsoring the ambitious project.

The concrete piers for the 72-foot-long, 4-foot-wide bridge are firmly in place. The steel beams have been swung into position and secured on the piers, welded and painted to withstand weathering. Construction of the superstructure, using pressure-treated wood, is under way.

Volunteer labor, many donated or discount-priced supplies and growing contributed funds are making the project a reality. During the week, work is proceeding in the early evening because most volunteers have daytime jobs. Project coordinator is Thomas Martucci, an experienced contractor and president of Concrete Coring in Hamden.

"We still need money to pay for the lumber and steel," said Downs. About one-third of the needed $4,000 goal has been raised as of last week. An additional $1,000 or more has been donated in materials, including lumber, steel, paint and baled hay for erosion control.

Those desiring to help the VFW can send contributions to Downs, the post treasurer, at 523 Carrington Road, Bethany 06524. Checks should be made out to the Bethany VFW Post 2448 and marked for the bridge.

VFW members are considering whether to install an approach area to the bridge, composed of individual stones that could be carved with names selected by donors, Peter Horbick, post commander, said.

Boy Scouts of Bethany Troop 1 also are involved in the bridge project. Christopher Pecca, 15, has received approval from the Scouts' Connecticut Yankee Council, Wepawaug Valley District, for his Eagle Scout community project to make a walking trail linking the picnic area on the north side of the lake with the bridge and then around the east end of the lake to the swimming area. He will supervise 10 younger troop members in completing the work.

Three former Eagle candidates in the troop have previously completed projects at the veterans park. Carl Wivagg cleared a picnic area and linked it to Lakeview Lodge with a trail. Bob Wislocki designed and implemented a safe swimming area with a system of anchors for ropes and buoys. Anthony Monelli made a trail connecting the open area of the park to Lebanon Road on the ridge above the lake.

Hockanum Brook, the stream which the bridge is spanning, arises primarily in the pristine Bethany Bog, according to Eric Stone, former chairman of the Inland Wetlands Commission. It flows through the lake and into the Bethany Land Trust's nearby Mendell's Folly property.

Dedication of the bridge is planned for later in July. The VFW invited Tom Brokaw, author of "The Greatest Generation," to be the speaker but Brokaw sent his regrets, saying he was too busy with his books and other work to attend, Downs reported.

Brokaw's books, including "The Greatest Generation Speaks," have been the motivation for many current veteran activities and patriotism programs, Downs said, "He got a lot of people thinking - and remembering."

The Bethany VFW has been active in several other projects this year. Most recently members led Flag Day ceremonies June14 at Community School, explaining the meaning of the flag and how it should be respected when handled, raised and lowered, Horbick said.

Post members also are joining the Orange Rotary Club to gather children's and adults' books and National Geographic magazines for a Rotary International collection to be sent to South Africa for literacy programs. A barrel for that purpose will be in place at the recycling center starting Saturday, July 7, Horbick said.